LITERARY CRITICISM
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals. Though the two activities are closely related, literary critics are not always, and have not always been, theorists.
Whether or not literary criticism should be considered a separate field of inquiry from literary theory, or conversely from book reviewing, is a matter of some controversy. For example, the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism draws no distinction between literary theory and literary criticism, and almost always uses the terms together to describe the same concept. Some critics consider literary criticism a practical application of literary theory, because criticism always deals directly with particular literary works, while theory may be more general or abstract.
Literary critics have many skills, {1} but those which the practising poet needs to acquire are close reading, explication and evaluation. And the first two because most poems fail through lack of care. The originating emotion still clots the lines or, in striving for originality, the work becomes muddled, pretentious or incoherent. The incomprehensible can always be taken for the profound of course, and no doubt much get published for that reason, but only the beginner will see publication as the sole purpose of writing. Poems take too much of the writer’s time and emotional lifeblood not to be made as good as possible, and dishonesty will spoil even the best talents. Poems grow through evaluation, that dialogue between what has been written and what was originally hoped for, between what the poems say now and what they might with further work. Self appraisal is inescapable.
But the critic’s eye is a rare gift, rarer than sainthood, Housman thought, and matters have lately become more controversial. Criticism is not fashionable, and has been…

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